Sometime in 1943 or 1944 a sublime thought came to Carl Hesse. What his motivation was has been lost. It could have been to create an occasion for the PCD community to come together one more time, before what was sure to be a difficult winter. The war in the Pacific and Europe was trudging through some of its darkest hours and there were PCD boy involved and yet to be involved. With the closeness of this community the realities of war would have been only a hand clasp away.
Perhaps it was a recollection of his own past that inspired him. Perhaps, just a frivolity, a distraction to, for a few hours, hide away the burdens of war; a celebration of the boys and their youth. Whatever the reasoning, headmaster Ed Lund must have thought the idea was a good one.
The event that emerged in the fall of 43 or 44 was the “Chowder Party.” The only sport played on that day was football. But the feeling on campus must have been similar to the myriad sport “Chowder Day” that we now know. The snap in the air, the collage of the leaves. The flashes and patches of red and black on the playing field and stippled about the crowd of spectators and the smiles, the bugs, the cheering.
After the game, then as now, their and our focus turned and turns to chowder. The answers to why chowder was chosen are speculation. Purely New England warming in all aspects, a simple delicacy for a family to gather around. Each person giving some small portion, each portion combined with the others; the end product being greater than the some of its parts, the resulting experience being joyous, fulfilling, memorable, was chowder Hesse’s metaphor for PCD?
Through the years the ingredients for “Chowder Day” have varied but the flavor remains the same. In the early years the fathers of students cooked the chowder on the “west side” (across Pawtucket Ave.) and served it on the “east side” in Metcalf gymnasium (now Chase Hall). Besides clam chowder, coffee, corn, donuts, apples and, of course, clam cakes have shared the menu. Floral decorations for one particular “Chowder Party” were chrysanthemums in football helmets. In 1955, 365 alumni, parents, students and friends assembled to join in the revelry. There was a light drizzle in the air that day, the yearbook makes note: “cars lining the field attested to the loyalty of fans who took to the bleachers at dry moments.” Each year a little different, each year so much the same.
This is dedicated to “Chowder Day,” to Carl Hesse, to Ed Lund, to all those chowder cooking fathers, to the alumni and to all the students and parents of PCD. Turn your thoughts to the symbol of this day and why Carl Hesse chose it, the modest soup of New England with complex flavor, Chowder.